Japan has announced plans to accelerate its purchase of Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States. Defense Minister Minoru Kihara revealed that Japan will begin purchasing the missiles in fiscal year 2025, a year earlier than originally scheduled. This decision comes as tensions between Japan, China, and North Korea continue to escalate. Kihara made the announcement during a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington, DC.
Initially, Japan intended to buy 400 of the latest Tomahawk Block V missiles, which have a range of around 1,600 kilometers. However, the new plan involves procuring 200 missiles of the previous model between fiscal years 2025 and 2027. The remaining portion of the deal will consist of newer missiles, which will be delivered as planned.
Kihara emphasized the importance of strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of allied forces to counter any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo through force. He specifically mentioned the Indo-Pacific region as an area that must not tolerate such actions.
Last year, Japan decided to enhance its military capabilities by adding “counterstrike” capabilities. This decision was driven by rising tensions with China and North Korea. As a result, the Japanese government increased defense spending significantly. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party also considered amending the country’s pacifist constitution to elevate the status of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
During the meeting with Kihara, US Secretary of Defense Austin reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to defend Japan. He expressed support for Japan’s desire to upgrade its military and stated that the force posture of the US is becoming more versatile, mobile, and resilient. Austin also accused China of engaging in coercive behavior.
In response, Beijing has accused the US of interfering in its domestic affairs by selling weapons to Taiwan and supporting what it calls “separatist forces” in Taipei. China considers Taiwan its territory and firmly opposes any foreign aid or diplomatic ties with its government.
Additionally, North Korea recently enshrined nuclear weapons into its constitution, claiming it as a means to ensure its right to existence and deter potential conflicts with the US. North Korea has conducted numerous missile tests in recent years, citing joint military drills between the US, Japan, and South Korea as a threat to regional peace.
The escalating tensions between Japan, China, and North Korea have raised concerns about stability in the region. The purchase of Tomahawk cruise missiles by Japan reflects its efforts to reinforce its defense capabilities and respond to potential threats. The US government’s support for Japan’s military upgrades signals its commitment to maintaining a strong partnership and security presence in the Indo-Pacific region.